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Mario Molina, 77, Dies; Sounded an Alarm on the Ozone Layer

José Mario Molina-Pasquel y Henríquez was born on March 19, 1943, in Mexico City to Roberto Molina Pasquel and Leonor Henríquez Molina. His father was a lawyer and judge who served as Mexican ambassador to Ethiopia, the Philippines and Australia. His mother was a homemaker.

He was fascinated by science from his youngest days, as he wrote in a memoir that appears on the Nobel site: “I still remember my excitement when I first glanced at paramecia and amoebae through a rather primitive toy microscope.” He converted a little-used bathroom in his home into a laboratory for his chemistry sets, guided by an aunt, Esther Molina, who was a chemist.

His family, following their tradition, sent him abroad for his education, and at 11 he was in a boarding school in Switzerland, “on the assumption that German was an important language for a prospective chemist to learn.”

He decided that of his two passions, chemistry and the violin, science was what he would devote himself to, and in 1960 he enrolled in the chemical engineering program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. After studying in Paris and Germany, he began graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968. He received his doctorate in physical chemistry there in 1972.

The experience of studying at Berkeley was not just important to his development as a scientist, he would recall; he arrived in the wake of the free-speech movement, and political awareness was part of everyday life. He initially worked in the young field of chemical lasers, but he found himself “dismayed” to find that some researchers at other institutions were developing high-powered lasers to use as weapons.

“That was important,” Felipe José Molina, Dr. Molina’s son and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in an interview. Thanks to Dr. Molina’s experiences at Berkeley, his son said, he felt driven to do work “that had a benefit to society, rather than just pure research, or things that could potentially be harmful.”

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Mario Molina, Nobel-winning Mexican chemist who made key climate change finding, dies at 77

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mario Molina, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995 and the only Mexican scientist to be honored with a Nobel, died Wednesday in his native Mexico City. He was 77 years old.

Molina’s family announced his death in a brief statement through the institute that carried his name. It did not give a cause of death.

He won the prize along with scientists Frank Sherwood Rowland of the United States and Paul Crutzen of the Netherlands for their research into climate change.

Molina and Rowland published a paper in 1974 that saw the thinning of the ozone layer as a consequence of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, chemicals used in a range of products.

Molina’s work contributed to the drafting of the first international treaty on the subject, the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of the chemicals. Later, he focused on confronting air pollution in major cities like his own Mexico City and pushing for global actions to promote sustainable development.

One of his last public appearances was alongside Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, also a scientist, in a video conference during which Molina reflected on the coronavirus pandemic and the importance of wearing masks to avoid transmission.

Molina was a member, among other institutions, of the National Academy of Sciences and for eight years was one of the 21 scientists who composed President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

Only two other Mexicans have been awarded Nobel Prizes: Alfonso García Robles received the Peace Prize in 1982 for his work on nuclear weapons negotiations and writer Octavio Paz was awarded the prize for literature in 1990.

Molina died on the same day this year’s prize for chemistry was awarded.

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Mario Molina, Mexico chemistry Nobel winner, dies at 77

Mario Molina, Mexico chemistry Nobel winner, dies at 77
In this Feb 25. 2010 file photo, Mexico’s Nobel Chemistry Prize laureate Mario Molina gestures during a conference on global warming in Guadalajara, Mexico. Molina has died on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, his family informed. (AP Photo/Carlos Jasso, File)

Mario Molina, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995 and the only Mexican scientist to be honored with a Nobel, died Wednesday in his native Mexico City. He was 77 years old.


Molina’s faamily announced his death in a brief statement through the institute that carried his name. It did not give a cause of death.

He won the prize along with scientists Frank Sherwood Rowland of the United States and Paul Crutzen of the Netherlands for their research into climate change.

Molina and Rowland published a paper in 1974 that saw the thinning of the ozone layer as a consequence of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, chemicals used in a range of products.

Molina’s work contributed to the drafting of the first international treaty on the subject, the Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of the chemicals. Later, he focused on confronting air pollution in major cities like his own Mexico City and pushing for global actions to promote sustainable development.

One of his last public appearances was alongside Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, also a scientist, in a video conference during which Molina reflected on the coronavirus pandemic and the importance of wearing masks to avoid transmission.

Molina was a member, among other institutions, of the National Academy of Sciences and for eight years was one of the 21 scientists who composed President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

Only two other Mexicans have been awarded Nobel Prizes: Alfonso García Robles received the Peace Prize in 1982 for his work on nuclear weapons negotiations and writer Octavio Paz was awarded the prize for literature in 1990.

Molina died on the same day this year’s prize for chemistry was awarded.


Video: Earth’s ozone layer


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